Don’t underestimate the significance of the Celtics’ Game 4 victory in the fight between the big men.
One of the Heat’s starting big men, Edrice Femi “Bam” Adebayo, has a more catchy moniker.
Al Horford and Robert Williams are usually just known as Al and Rob, but the latter still gets referred to as “Timelord” from time to time.
Horford and Williams were so effective in the Celtics’ series-tying, suspense-free 102-82 win over the Heat in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Finals Monday night that they may as well have been called “Wham” Horford and “Slam” Williams.
For a man who was important to the victory, Al Horford posted one of the most unusual stat lines you’ll see this postseason. He scored five points in 33 minutes by making a 3-pointer and two free throws.
At least 13 rebounds, four blocks, three assists, and a salute to the audience or a fake gaze into the distance to see where the crushed basketball fell were all part of his stat line on this particular night. He also had three steals.
Adebayo scored just 9 points and 6 rebounds in Game 4 despite leading the Heat to a Game 3 victory, but he set a physical tone by stifling him (31 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals). Horford snatched the ball away from Adebayo on the game’s first play. Bam was unable to cope with the Wham on this particular night.
After the game, Celtics coach Ime Udoka said, “Bam got it going last game, and guys take that personal.”.
In addition to his typical assortment of intangibles, Horford also contributed. With Marcus Smart out with a high ankle sprain, Horford subtly picked up some of the ball-handling duties, making a point to push the ball up the court himself after virtually every one of his rebounds.
For a 36-year-old player who has had a tremendous postseason workload, it was amazing stuff. Horford’s status as a “unsung hero” should be obsolete by now, given how well-liked he is among the team’s faithful. The Garden fans gave him a thunderous standing ovation after he snatched the ball from Kyle Lowry on one possession and blocked a shot on the next, and it was wonderful to see him “sung” a little.
Williams isn’t mentioned. As always, his contributions are more gut-wrenching. Before the game, there was a lot of suspense as to who would be in and who would be out for both teams due to the physicality of this series and the long season as a whole.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens emphasised the importance of the word that Williams, who missed Game 3 due to knee pain and underwent meniscus surgery in late March, will be available for Game 4. Second-string centre Daniel Theis was savaged by Adebayo two years ago when the Heat ran away with Game 3 until Udoka decided it was best to go with other options.
The Celtics needed Williams to play well if they wanted to avoid falling behind 3-1 and witnessing this remarkable season (at least since January) come to an end. We were all relieved that he not only played through the pain in his knee, but was also his typical energetic and explosive self as the Celtics raced out to an early lead and never looked back.
At the end of the game, Williams had 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, made all four of his free throws, grabbed 9 rebounds, blocked two shots, and made his presence known to the Miami Heat throughout the entire game.
On NBC Sports Boston’s postgame programme, Brian Scalabrine commented that “every time they got to the hoop, they were looking for Robert Williams.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Williams remained grounded compared to his typically lofty standards. On a night when the Celtics shot just 39.7 percent, he helped the team keep possession by grabbing five offensive rebounds, including one he caught from a driving Al Horford for an early slam.
At 10:41 in the second quarter, Rob Williams tipped in a Grant Williams miss, giving the Celtics their 25th rebound of the game to the Heat’s nine. Williams and Horford each had nine first-half boards for the Celtics, who finished with 41 rebounds in the first half and 69 in total.
Williams appeared to be limping when he went out with roughly 7 minutes left to play, raising questions about his availability for Game 5 on Wednesday in Miami. Udoka justified his dismissal as a “precautionary” measure.
Afterward, Williams didn’t appear to be bothered.
In his own words, “Great feeling being back with my buddies.” “The knee feels amazing… Spending a lot of time with the trainers and just taking it day by day. See how it reacts to a slew of circumstances.”
When the Celtics needed it most on Monday night, Williams’ knee reacted in a timely manner. The Celtics need just two more victories to advance to the NBA Finals. A banner is given to six more people. All the best for the rest of your journey.